ELKHART COUNTY — There are children who, because of financial necessity, have to share a bed with a sibling, a parent, or even sleep on a cot or on the floor because there’s just not enough money to get a bed.
Then one day strangers come to the house carrying pieces of wood, boxes and a bag. These strangers begin putting the pieces of wood together. They are putting together a twin bed, or building a bunk bed. A mattress, wrapped tightly by plastic, springs open. Inside a package is a set of sheets, pillow case and comforter. There’s also a blanket.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” comes from a child who might be crying or smiling the biggest smile they ever have had and jumping up and down in excitement.
The handmade beds and mattresses are from Sleep In Heavenly Peace, made possible through donations and volunteer efforts through churches, organizations and groups. SHP is a group of volunteers dedicated to building, assembling and delivering top-notch bunk beds to children and families in need.
The Elkhart County chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, one of eight in Indiana, started in May 2018 by Tim Harmon who saw Mike Rowe’s show “Returning the Favor” and learned about the program. Harmon contacted the organization, received the necessary training and began the Elkhart County chapter. The first bed in Elkhart County was delivered in August 2018.
Joel Conrad, a SHP volunteer, said the chapter initially received 115 requests for 276 beds. However, the list constantly fluctuates as requests are received through the SHP website and sent to the appropriate chapter. The local chapter is sent the requests where the recipient has a ZIP code of communities within Elkhart County.
Requests for more than 200 beds still need to be built and delivered in the county, which is not an overnight job.
Each bed costs approximately $175 — for the materials, mattress, sheets, comforter and pillow. Blankets are provided through another non-profit group called Project Linus. Funds to purchase the necessary building materials and accessories are done through donations from churches, organizations, companies, chamber of commerces and businesses.
Build days are scheduled – weeknights or Saturday mornings — for individuals and organizations who wish to help in building the beds. The beds are built with the help of volunteers. A build day is the prep work time. This includes measuring, sawing, lots of sanding, hole marking, hole drilling, head and foot board assembly and the final step, branding the bed with SHP. Those who helped prepare the bed frames are given the opportunity to go with SHP trained volunteers for an experience never forgotten.
Once at the home, the various pieces are brought in and assembled right before the eyes of the young recipient. The youngsters often get involved helping put the bed together, tearing open the pressure wrapped mattress and watching it unroll and take shape.
The final joy is seeing them make their beds and climb under the covers with large smiles.
Conrad stated five bunk beds can be assembled in 42 minutes. He noted the highest number of beds delivered to one family was one bunk bed and three single beds.
SHP is a national organization headquartered in Twin Falls, Idaho. While SHP’s goal is to provide beds for every child in need in Elkhart County, it does have a larger goal of expanding the program into other counties. Recently a group of individuals met in Syracuse to consider creating a chapter in Kosciusko County.
A national build day is being planned for June 15 at the Life Center Pavilion, Goshen, where the goal is to build 20 bunk beds (a total of 40 individual beds).
Learn more about SHP or request a free twin or bunk bed for a child, by visiting shpbeds.org.